Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ice Station Pottersville

     I believe I put this picture up last month but it's worth recycling. This is our 17 year-old car, Old Betsy, after we got the first of many, many snowstorms (the day after we got two and a half feet). I'm reusing this picture because it's perfectly emblematic of our financial difficulties of late. Not only has this particularly brutal winter been harsh on our gas heating bill (the next-to-last one was nearly $80), but the car itself has been problematic. Around the time of the first blizzard I had to have the brake lines on the driver side replaced, a job costing me over $250. The mechanic warned me the corroded brake lines on the passenger side will follow suit and indeed, the brakes are still feeling spongey.
     Not only that but annual car expenses such as the inspection sticker and excise taxes both came due at about the same time, which was another $80 out of my pocket. Since we're getting daily temperatures here in central Massachusetts well below freezing (with some nights dipping down to below zero, requiring I leave the heat on), that means our next gas bill won't be any picnic, either.
     To add to our burden, my old Lenovo laptop was getting so abominably slow, I had to bite the bullet and a buy a used Acer that I found on Craigslist that cost us another $200.
     I know I haven't been posting at all for the past week and, again, I apologize for that. But what little spare time I have after my daily and regular chores and so forth is being devoted to finishing the final line edit for Tatterdemalion.
     So if you see this and have some cha-ching to spare, please consider putting whatever you can spare in the Paypal kitty because we're having an awful rough time of it, a situation that won't improve once our one major benefactor retires in April. I hate to be a pain in the ass but once I get this line edit knocked out and re-sent to a literary agency in New York, I'll be able to free more time for the political blogging that you all rightly expect from me.
     But we really, desperately need help to get through this winter, especially if my brakes go out on me again and I have another $250+ repair bill to look forward to.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Security at a Price

(Tip o' the tinfoil hat to reader CC.)
     (This is what crimps Al Franken's bunny ears and has his diaper all bunched up of late: The government and giant corporations spying on us after vacuuming up much of our income in the form of taxes and increasingly high fees and charges. This is more or less an exact copy of an email I'd sent to a faithful reader after he'd sent me this Daily Kos link and after you read it and of Senator Franken's Senate investigation, you'll never look at "smart TVs" the same way ever again.)
     This neither surprises nor shocks me. It's all too disturbingly easy to believe that these tech companies, as with the internet behemoths, gladly feed biometric and voice data to the NSA and whoever pays the highest price for it. And they DO get paid by the government. We pay them increasingly high rates for our cable, house and cell phones and internet and they rake in untold millions more by spying on us and selling the metadata and so forth to Uncle Sam. That's why, when I write a check to Verizon for my house phone, I've taken to writing "NSA spying" on the memo line on the check just to let them know I know about their scummy activities.
     I can see spying on terrorist and possible terrorist actors in the name of national security. I have absolutely no problem with that whatsoever. What I have a problem with is our government that vacuums up wholesale our private data without any disclosure, the corporations with which we do business doing it for a price, creating shifting rationales and packs of lies big enough to choke a T Rex to justify doing so and being disturbingly comfortable with turning our nation into a subtler version of Orwell's totalitarian police state. Then we go after the whistle blowers like Daniel Ellsberg, Assange, Wikileaks, Sibel Edmonds, Susan Lindauer, Chelsea Manning and Ed Snowden as if THEY committed crimes more egregious than our government has already committed and is still committing.
     And what's most disturbing of all is how many companies, media sources and private citizens are perfectly OK with this because we've been conned into believing that security is paramount above all else even at the expense of our 1st and 4th amendment rights that have long since been turned into conditional fucking privileges that, as far as I can see, will never even be earned or given back.
     And I think back on what Ben Franklin said about this: "Those who are willing to forgo liberty for security deserve neither."

Friday, February 13, 2015

Good Times at Pottersville, 2/13/15

Monday, February 9, 2015

Top 12 Assclowns of the GOP 2016 Presidential Field

     As the rest of Obama's lame duck presidency reaches its twilight, so begins the usual Pamplona of assclownery (or what some charitably refer to as the Republicans' jockeying for their party's attention in the next general election). As has been the case since time immemorial, the crop of conservatives is a massive political sideshow that would do PT Barnum proud. So, taking a page from my own Assclowns of the Week, crank up the Krazy Konservative Kalliope as I present your top 12 GOP Assclowns (plus one dishonorable mention) in the 2016 Republican presidential field.

12) Ted Cruz
     Like his running buddy Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz is just two years into an unrelieved comical farce of an incumbency before setting his crossed eyes on the bigger prize of the presidency. One boggles at the statements that would be made by Cruz's father Rafael as he continues tacking like an ancient mariner on the campaign trail to escape the men with the ice cream suits and butterfly nets.

     Once shut down the government with a Dr. Seuss book. Climate change denialist who was then last month made the chairman of a Senate science subcommittee overseeing NASA's budget. Is so painfully, burningly stupid, once compared net neutrality to ObamaCare on Twitter. Is so nakedly, brazenly power-hungry and egotistical, even the senior members of his party can't stand him.

11) Bobby Jindal
     LA Governor Bobby Jindal (R-Exorcist) made waves this past week for an unofficial portrait painted by one of his constituents that essentially made him look like a Special Needs Rick Santorum. It was a portrait that seems to lack a certain something, namely pigment, according to some seditious liberal naysayer who had the effrontery to point this out. Undeterred, one of Jindal's flaks fired back on Twitter and called the guy who brought up this fact a "race baiter" before showing us what the real official portrait looked like.

     Oh, yeah, Kyle, much better. No Michael Jackson action going on there
     A typical Republican, Jindal's busy sneering at Obama and Hillary and basically sticking his nose where it doesn't belong while his own state's economy is in the shitter and looking at a budgetary shortfall of over a billion and a half dollars. As Jindal's the worst thing to hit Louisiana since Katrina, we can comfortably count on the rest of the nation's resurgent racism to ensure the only way he'll ever see the inside of the White House is in a tour group.

10) Mike Huckabee
     One of eight former or current GOP governors to make the grade, Huckabee makes the #10 spot just for the sheer stratospheric level of delusion that America would ever want him to be our Commander in Chief. Is such an uptight prick, once wrote an article at 17 condemning dancing and everyone who ever attended a dance or was part of "a choom gang." Essentially, as with his overall presidential ambitions, Huckabee's trying to light a fire with wet logs that go back to the 50's, tackling non-starters such as gay marriage, Beyonce and, yes, dancing. Perhaps it's true that he's just trying to drum up attention for his new book, "I Am a Slow Motion Puffer Fish". But Huckabee seems bound and determined to drag the GOP back into the 17th century at a time when the Republicans aren't willing to go back beyond the 18th. Jesus tap dancing Christ, this bloated god bag makes Ronald Reagan look like a fucking futurist.

9) Chris Cristie
     The Ralph Kramden of American politics, New Jersey Governor Chris Cristie (R-Gridlock) has elevated loathing and detestation of the 99%, educators  and his many critics to an art form. With either blissful ignorance or sheer vindictiveness, presided over the biggest traffic jam in the history of the GWB, one brought about by his own aides; spent over $1,000,000 of New Jersey taxpayer money to hire a legal firm to clear him of wrongdoing in another scandal; currently the subject of a massive FBI investigation; has so thoroughly butt-fucked New Jersey's economy that he reneged on $2.4 billion in pension payouts and essentially stole it; stole another billion dollars from New Jersey's public schools to hand to the 1% while firing nearly 4500 teachers; waddled to a Koch brothers retreat to which, of course, the press wasn't invited, and, purely by coincidence, immediately afterward pulled New Jersey out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Easily the most corrupt non-national politician since Huey Long.
     Was re-elected by a landslide, with a third of "Democrats" voting for him.

8) Rick Perry
     Texas Governor Rick Perry demonstrates how he deals with lobbyists and special interest groups.
     Ricky Retardo's new glasses make him look smarter than he really is in three ways but he'll be damned if he can remember the third one. Indisputably the stupidest Governor in American history, quite a feat in the state of Texas. Makes predecessor George W. Bush look like Adlai Stevenson by conspicuous relief. Once threatened Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's life. Threatened to secede from the Union over Obama's stimulus package despite lacking constitutional authority to do so. Once bragged about killing a coyote for looking at him. Thinks indictment for abusing the power of his office qualifies him to be President. Indisputably the stupidest Governor in American history. Oh, did I say that already? Well, it bears repeating.
7) Scott Walker
     The cock puppet of Charles and David Koch, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker first burst on the scene like a rancid ass boil by stripping almost all public unions of collective bargaining rights. Once removed all doubt who he really works for by taking a call from a blogger posing as David Koch. During the call, Walker openly floated the idea of dispatching agent provocateurs to break up the protests in Madison. Nonetheless, cranial hypothermia and a shitload of right wing out of state money saw Walker victorious after being just the third Governor in American history to face a recall election. Proudly mired in countless Republican scandals, including the Wisconsin Club for Growth (which obviously doesn't include jobs) and John Doe and has an infallible instinct for hiring future jailbirds. Unquestionably, this cross-eyed goober is one of the worst and stupidest Governors in US history, which is a great reason for Republicans to want to place in his hands the national Treasury and our nuclear launch codes.

6) Marco Rubio
     A first year senator, the GOP gave Marco Rubio one job and one job only: To rebut the President's State of the Union Address with the Republican point of view. What the nation got, instead, was a Charlie McCarthy/Edgar Bergen monologue minus the ventriloquist. Such a political and intellectual flyweight, he gives Ricky Ricardo gravitas. Ted Cruz-lite wanted an embargo on Cuba and whined when he didn't get it. Biggest contribution to American culture is in preparing for the granddaddy of all comb-overs. Cynically uses his Latino roots for partisan advantage except, unlike Mitt Romney, is actually Latino. Admits that, while "I'm not a scientist, man," proceeds to tell scientists where they're wrong on climate change and other scientiffy things. Florida could vote in a 30 year-old pink flamingo on Rick Scott's lawn and no one would notice.

5) Ben Carson
Dr. Ben Carson speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, March 8, 2014. 
"Yooouuu... dirty welfare recipient..."
     Of all the lunatics on this list, Ben Carson is perhaps the most dangerous because right wingers take him the most seriously. As proof of this, just recently Carson was placed on the SPLC's "Extremist Watch List" mainly for his virulent opposition to gay marriage.
     Here are some more facts about Ben Carson that show his breathtaking hypocrisy, courtesy of Lee Branen and sourced at Wonkette:
     Oh, but Benny has a reason for why he and Mom rose from their impoverished status after suckling on the evil libr'al welfare teat: They don't make moochers like they used to. You see, back in Carson's day, people weren't boasting about being on public assistance and benefiting from Affirmative Action like they are now.
     Recently trashed the Founding Fathers by comparing them to ISIS and says God told him to tell us about His flat tax rate (999 a la Herman Cain?). Claims liberals are the real Nazis. Has to remind Republicans to not think of him as crazy. As with liberals and Obama, is desperately loved by Teabaggers and other white supremacists to prove how post racial they are. While watching Django Unchained, probably cried when Stephen got his ass blown back to Africa.

4) Michele Bachmann
     Yes, the Girl With the 1000 Mile Stare is gone but not forgotten. Even including Steve King and Slipknot, is the craziest thing to ever come out of Iowa. Came in 6th in 2011 Iowa GOP caucus despite buying most of the straw poll votes (still getting less than 30% of the votes). In 2009, encouraged supporters to slit their wrists if ObamaCare was ratified. Hid in the bushes while spying on a pro gay rights rally (while closeted husband Marcus was getting phone numbers for "research purposes"). Vacuums in high heels. Takes revisionist American history to stratospheric levels. Her grasp on science is just as firm. Is more passionately opposed to census takers than Hannibal Lecter. Also passionate about fluoridated water and light bulbs that never go off over her pointy head. Anti-vaxxer and allround right wing nut bag who voted to shut down the government that gave her and Marcus hundreds of thousands in subsidies for their Wisconsin farm.
     Despite having less on the ball than your typical basement-dwelling conspiracy theorist churning out mimeographed newsletters, gerrymandering made her a four term representative of the 6th district, making that part of Minnesota the Land of 1000 Idiots.

3) Rick Santorum
     Despite Pope Frothy the First getting kicked out of the Senate after just one term and proving his electile dysfunction during the last two presidential elections, the other Ricky Retardo sallies froth forth for his third unsuccessful bid from his metaphorical balcony at St. Peter's Square. I shit you not, this Papist peckerhead used to be a registered lobbyist for Vince McMahon and the former WWF. Senator Man on Dog once equated gay marriage with beastiality and that the additional number of gay couples getting married in the 37 states in which gay marriage is legal will result in fewer marriages. More likely than not has a poster of Savonarola in his bedroom.

2) Jeb Bush
     Currently, the presumptive frontrunner in the GOP Pamplona of assclowns, the chowerheaded scion of George and Barbara Bush proves that red is the new purple. That is, the hind leg-chewing radical right wing faction still vainly trying to churn Ron Paul's withered penis into tumescence thinks that Jeb Bush is a Goddamned moderate (once called "a progressive" by Glenn Beck). A decade ago, he once tried to shove a feeding tube down Terri Schiavo's throat until stopped by a Florida court. In 2000, commissioned Katherine Harris to purge tens of thousands of voters from the rolls with the help of ChoicePoint, essentially stealing the presidency for his idiot older brother. Rear-ended the Florida public school system by expanding charter school vouchers. Even his own mother doesn't want him in the White House.

1) Sarah Palin
       The ultimate political cock tease, Sarah Palin's been flirting with a presidential run since she renamed the McCain-Palin campaign the "Palin-McCain campaign." Was such a horrible running mate, the McCain camp actually floated the idea of not letting her be sworn in as VP if their man won. Recent speech at Teabagger shindig in Iowa proved that without her teleprompter and notes on her hand, her head is full of right wing bumper stickers put through a garbage disposal. In fact, that speech was so horrible, even Republicans broke their necks running for the exits. Trying to encompass this woman's stupidity and ignorance in a couple of paragraphs is like trying to stuff 100 pounds of bologna into a two pound bag. In just six short years, sent women's rights back to the days of the Sumerians and Annunaki.

Dishonorable mention: Mitt Romney
      As of press time, this flat-eyed sociopath's officially out of the race, having come full circle from what he'd said five months ago that his "time had come and gone." But knowing "Where the Wind Blows" Willard, that could change faster than it took for Seamus to piss and shit on the Romney vacation mobile. Only qualification to be Chief Executive is that he's the perfect hybrid between a game show host and white America's perception of what a president should look like. Only appeal to right wing voters was the simple fact he wasn't Obama. Republican voters reported in exit polls that voting for Romney gave them an aftertaste like sucking on a plastic golf tee. Cynically tried to pass for Mexican even though he's about as Mexican as Taco Bell. Once claimed Dad marched with Dr. King despite no evidence proving it. Barely restrained harpy wife Ann claimed they were "living on the edge" despite being able to cash in stocks. Claims he was a job creator despite sending over 100,000 American jobs to the Third World. Once viciously attacked a gay fellow student over his hair. Next thing you know, this polymer-based android will be claiming he actually has traces of human DNA.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Good Times at Pottersville, 2/5/15

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

To Resurrect a Mockingbird

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan. on loan from Ari.)
     After a 55 year-long silence, Harper Lee is publishing a sequel to her classic To Kill a Mockingbird. From just a purely literary viewpoint, this is huge news. Imagine a new J.D. Salinger novel coming to light about Holden Caulfield 20 years later. That's essentially the premise for Lee's "new" novel, Go Set a Watchman. I say "new" in quotes because, according to Miss Lee's account, Watchman was written first and the flashback chapters about Scout Finch's childhood so captivated Lee's editor that he asked her to expand upon it. So, while Watchman was written first, she and her publisher decided to go with Mockingbird, which was actually a prequel.
     As with Agatha Christie's "final" novel, Curtain, which was written during the London blitz when she was still at the height of her powers (In case she was killed during the Nazi shelling, leaving Hercule Poirot's legacy unfinished), Lee's manuscript then got misplaced and she thought it was lost until her attorney found it last year in a "secure location." (Lesson to authors: Always back up your manuscripts.) Ergo, the long-awaited second Lee novel will come out on July 14th and Harper's publisher (also Harper) will come out with an initial print run of 2,000,000 copies.
     So, this is all good news for book lovers, especially fans of Miss Lee, and is the biggest news in the book business to come out in years. But how relevant will a second Scout/Atticus Finch novel be in 21st century America, especially decades after the undeclared death of what used to be the Civil Rights movement? Indeed, should we care about a new Scout Finch novel or what happens in Maycomb, Alabama 20 years later in the mid 50's when Scout, now a mature woman, returns from New York like a prodigal daughter? Why should a sequel be relevant to a "post-racial" America now boasting an African American president, no need for a Civil Rights movement or Affirmative Action and with a gutted Voting Rights Act of 1965? Why should we greet Go Set a Watchman with anything other than literary curiosity?
     Would it be any more relevant than, say, a sequel to Uncle Tom's Cabin were one to come to light? A new Harriet Beecher Stowe novel continuing the saga would be a literary curiosity but hardly relevant in a nation that abolished slavery 150 years ago with the ratification of the 13th amendment. So, how relevant is Harper Lee and the Finches considering both books were written years before the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts?
     All too much.
     Considering it's one of the most famous stories in modern American fiction, one hardly needs me or anyone to relate the abstracts of a book that's been taught in schools for over half a century. But for the sake of context, I'll give you the throughline:
     A classic Bildungsroman work of fiction, To Kill a Mockingbird features widowed attorney Atticus Finch, father of the protagonist Scout. A black man, Tom Robinson, is accused of raping a young white woman named Mayella Ewell and Finch agrees to defend him. Generally viewed as a model of legal integrity, Finch fights tooth and nail for his client and, despite essentially proving Robinson's lack of guilt, the jury convicts him, anyway. Robinson is then shot and killed as he tries to escape from prison.
     There is some justice in To Kill a Mockingbird (Bob Ewell, father of the raped woman, seeks revenge despite the conviction and "fell on his own knife" as the Sheriff tells Finch) but not much. The epitome of the Southern Gothic novel, one reminiscent of Tennessee Williams and Faulkner, Lee's book offers an unflinching look into the "Just Us" system of the Deep South and the unjust persecution and prosecution of innocent African Americans we still see in the present day.
     Bewildered by her father's moral code that made him risk both their lives during those three years in the Great Depression in his defense of an innocent man, Scout returns from the Big Apple and, according to Harper Collins, then tries to understand her father Atticus better. It is important to remember that Miss Lee had written Watchman in the mid 1950s, even before I was born. It was not intended to be a period novel or a snapshot into a bygone age yet that is the prism with which we necessarily need to view it.
     Yet, while Lee's masterpiece  is a brutally honest scrutiny of her small Alabama hometown (many of the characters are based on her relatives and neighbors), the United States, particularly the Deep South, has, if anything, gotten even uglier. Black males, most famously the Scottsboro Boys and 14 year-old Emmett Till (who was murdered the same year Watchman was drafted), were commonly charged, convicted or outright lynched over alleged crimes to white women. Jurors tended to be all white and prosecutors racists if not secretly Klansmen.
     But the persistent racism we're seeing rearing its pointy head since the election of Barack Obama in 2008 goes several steps further than even Lee's pitiless probity ever envisioned or anticipated. With the street executions of Michael Brown, Oscar Grant, Amadou Diallo, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and all too many others, juries and grand juries refuse to indict policemen or police groupies like George Zimmerman. And instead of being charged with crimes they didn't commit, more and more innocent black males are being charged with crimes and even bad behavior when they weren't even the defendants (usually because they were dead).
     Instead of ropes, we're now using strings of binary on Twitter, Facebook and blogs to lynch black males (and, in some cases, even black women) long after they've been laid in their graves or sent to prison. Meanwhile, we're also treated to the news of white privileged males getting off scot free after killing four people in a stolen vehicle while under the influence with the bottomlessly absurd defense of "Affluenza."
     Scout Finch may return to her southern roots mystified by her heroic father's motives for risking everything to save a man he never knew in the real world as well as by the twisted ugliness of those roots. But she'd be even more mystified by a 21st century United States that's actually come full circle and, in some ways, has gotten even more racist and vicious than the Alabama of the Great Depression. So, yes, Go Set a Watchman may yet teach us some lessons in racial harmony, however unheeded, six decades after Lee had written it.
     You go, old girl.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Yeah, Baby!

     I've waited 11 years for this, for the Pats to win another Super Bowl. And it would be the balls to do so by toppling the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks. So, Mrs. JP and I are making Chex Mix and later on a crock pot full of chili and we'll be at a friend's house watching the game wearing our brand new his and her AFC Championship tee shirts. Whatever your feelings about the Patriots, you have to give them credit for their midseason comeback and rattling off seven wins in a row after starting out 2-2. So this will be it for today, folks.

KindleindaWind, my writing blog.

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